|Kevin Bitar, left and Michael McRoskey|
GUEST BLOG--By Alexander Danilowicz, staff reporter, The Augustinian, student newspaper, St. Augustine High School.
In 2010 Michael founded The Red Bag, Inc., a non-profit corporation devoted to providing material and spiritual nourishment to those who need it most. Kevin joined the project in August 2012, acting as The Red Bag’s Director of Ambassadors.
What is a Red Bag? The better question: what isn’t a Red Bag? An energy bar, bottled water, raisins, trail mix, beef jerky, chewing gum, and a hand wipe, all packed into one reusable, recyclable, and waterproof drawstring bag. For five dollars you get a care package of essentials to have at the ready in your car to distribute to a homeless person in need. Michael and Kevin encourage everyone who purchases a Red Bag to add a personal note or prayer, as well as toiletries, warm socks, fruit or a blanket. Have you ever felt compassion for a beggar on the street, but were reluctant to give money that might be abetting substance abuse? Then Red Bag is for you.
“By keeping a Red Bag in your car, you will be equipped with a kit that makes it easy to help our neighbors in need. Instead of giving cash that may feed an addiction or bad habit, you’re providing the gift of encouragement and nutrition in a way that treats our neighbors with dignity and respect,” said Michael.
It all started 3 years ago, during Michael and Kevin’s freshman year. The concept behind The Red Bag was inspired by Mr. Cudal’s Honors English I class’ downtown homeless service project. After handing out sack lunches for a mere 15 minutes, all of the class’ prepared food was allocated without even covering a city block.
“What would Jesus do? Well, whatever he would do, Michael McRoskey and Kevin Bitar are getting it done,” said Mr. Cudal, who has been organizing the service project for the last 3 years.
San Diego had the third largest homeless population of any American metropolitan area in 2012, surpassed only by New York City and Los Angeles.
“Homeless people weren't new to me–I had seen them on street corners and off my freeway exit – but something about seeing them so hungry and so thankful sparked an idea. What if anyone could do what my class did? And so the Red Bag began,” said Michael.
Since its inception, The Red Bag has sold over 1500 bags. After its first two years of operations and countless hours of hard work, The Red Bag was granted official non-profit status in August 2012. “It’s going really well,” said Kevin. In an effort to get their local community involved, Michael and Kevin speak at youth groups, local organizations, and businesses in the area. Additionally, The Red Bag has its own social media campaign to reach beyond San Diego. Michael and Kevin encourage students to like The Red Bag on Facebook and to visit www.red-bag.org for more information. You can purchase Red Bags individually or in bulk from the website, or by contacting Michael or Kevin.
“Red Bag was founded on the principle that a small act of kindness can change lives–one person at a time,” said Michael. Clearly, Michael and Kevin are undertaking an effort that epitomizes the Catholic values of Saint Augustine High School.
Thank you to Stephanie Castillo for her help contributing to this article.